by Malia Kirby L.Ac.
Yesterday afternoon, as Shawn and I were sitting down to inhale what remained of our leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, I hear Bruce, our general manager here at the Pop ask me, “What is that? It smells wonderful!”
“Well, it’s an herb-roasted chicken with…”
“No, no. Not that. I can’t eat that. I mean the lovely pile of green you have on your plate.”
I grinned at this point, being that Bruce is vegetarian and all, and replied with, “…roasted Brussels sprouts in a Dijon mustard sauce that I’ve modified from one of Thomas Keller’s recipes.”
“Are you going to write about that for Cook’s Corner?”
“I can. It’s an easy recipe that I can write out without having to think about it, so it would be convenient.”
“That would be great if you would. We’re really enjoying Brussels sprouts right now, especially after this one place we had them downtown where they were really sweet and dark from the roast.”
“Yeah, they’re kind of like vegetable candy that way. Quite honestly, I don’t really get why people don’t eat them more often. With this recipe we’re eating today, I really like the juxtaposition of that roasty sweetness with the zing of Dijon mustard. Hang on, I still have some leftover sauce. Here, smell this.”
“Oh, that’s nice. I would really look forward to reading that recipe.”
“Ok, you’ve got it. I’ll write it up this week.”
But first, before getting to the recipe, let’s talk about why people generally don’t like the humble member of the cabbage family, and there’s usually one of two reasons—one of which, I used to agree with until I referred to my trusty copy of On Food and Cooking on the flavor chemistry of the cabbage family. And what was my personal beef? The smell. Oh, the smell of cooked cabbages in the kitchen. Turns out, heating to 140° will stop the enzymatic process that creates intensely bitter flavors in the entire family, but prolonged heat gradually transforms the flavor molecules to the point where eventually, the naturally occurring sulfur compounds form trisulfides, resulting in that we-made-corned-beef-and-cabbage-weeks-ago stink that manages to permeate every porous surface in your home.
What if you don’t want to stop the enzymes (which, by the way can apparently help protect against the development of cancer by fine-tuning the body for disposing of foreign chemicals1), but hate the bitter flavor of Brussels sprouts? Chop them in half. Those flavors are concentrated in the center of the sprout where active growth occurs (that goes for the center of most cabbages for the same reason), so you can cut them in half and soak them in cool water, which will hydrate the leaves and make them even more crisp while at the same time leaching out the precursors that result in bitter flavors. In my opinion, that’s win-win anyway, because those leafy veggies always manage to pick up dirt and particulate matter that can be easily soaked and rinsed away with this step.
So, what’s the full solution? Rinse your sprouts, halve them, place them in a large bowl, cover ‘em with water to soak, gently lift the floating sprouts from the top (leaving dirt and…whatever…behind in the bowl, and cook at high heat for a short period of time, leaving the internal sprout cooked through and fork-tender, but still well below 140°, and that’s the way.
Brussels Sprouts with Dijon Mustard Sauce
1 large stalk Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
2 T grapeseed oil
1 T butter
1 T shallot, minced
2 t fresh thyme, minced
2 cloves garlic confit, pureed
¼ c white wine
¾ c chicken or vegetable stock
2 T heavy whipping cream
¼ c sour cream
3 T Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Toss the Brussels sprouts with the grapeseed oil, then transfer the sprouts to a baking sheet cut side down. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast until your desired level of browning has been achieved, at least 15 minutes or up to 35 minutes (35 minutes won’t stink up your kitchen, but it’s definitely thinking about toeing the line).
While the sprouts are roasting, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then sweat the shallot for 1-2 minutes or until the pieces are translucent. Add the thyme and the garlic, stirring until fragrant, then add the white wine and stock. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, whisk in the whipping cream, sour cream, and Dijon mustard, and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Plate the sprouts, then drizzle the sauce over the sprouts as desired.
Alternate method of cooking: Instead of roasting the sprouts, add them to the sauce with the cream, sour cream, and mustard and heat until cooked through and the sauce has reduced.
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